College Hoops Week in Review: Five Thoughts

1 Comment

Chase Tapley, closer: Jamaal Franklin is the most talented player on San Diego State, and I don’t really think that’s up for discussion. He’s lanky and athletic, a terrific rebounder at 6-foot-5 and one of the most exciting — and confounding — scorers in the country. He’s like Russ Smith that rebounds the ball; you just know that when he has the ball in his hands, something exciting is going to happen, and it may not always be a good thing.

But if I’m a San Diego State fan, I don’t want the ball in Franklin’s hands on a big possession. I want the ball in Chase Tapley’s hands. The senior guard has turned into a lethal finisher, somewhat reminiscent of Tu Holloway before the brawl. On Saturday, he scored 12 points in overtime as the Aztecs avoided getting upset by Colorado State.

Frankln may be the guy that gets San Diego State through a game, but Tapley is the guy who needs the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.

Who is the best team in the Pac-12?: The west coast is shaping up to have some terrific regular season title races this season. The Mountain West speaks for itself, but the Pac-12 should be just as entertaining.

UCLA is finally hitting their stride and, for my money, has become the best team in the conference. The win at Colorado convinced me. They can survive even when their trio of stud freshmen struggle on the road against a talented opponent. But the Bruins really aren’t all that much better than Arizona or Oregon. The Ducks beat the Wildcats at home on Thursday night in a game where Sean Miller’s club nearly finished off another ridiculous, last-minute comeback.

But can we really right off 1-3 Colorado right now? I don’t think so.

And what about Arizona State, who has arguably the best point guard in the conference in Jahii Carson and a triple-double waiting to happen at center in Jordan Bachynski? And did you realize that Washington — yes, that Washington — has improved to 3-0 in the Pac-12 after winning at Cal and at Stanford this week?

Buckle up, left-coasters.

Road games in conference: Two weeks into league play, the road is looking like a pretty friendly place to be in the Big East. Home teams are just 11-17 after Providence went into New Jersey and knocked off Seton Hall on Sunday.

The Big Ten, however, is a much different story. Home teams are 14-9 in league play. Seven of those homes losses were by teams in the bottom of the league standings — Iowa, Northwestern, Nebraska and Penn State. The other two? Purdue dropped a home game to Ohio State this week, and Illinois was run out of their gym by Minnesota.

There’s a reason that we’ve been saying whoever wins on the road is going to win the Big Ten.

Reggie who?: The biggest reason that Miami has been able to survive without Reggie Johnson on the court? Julian Gamble. The 6-foot-8 senior has played the best basketball of his career over the last seven games, averaging 9.3 points, 7.5 boards and 2.4 blocks. He had 14 points and six boards in the win at UNC during the week and finished with nine points and eight boards against Maryland on Sunday night, including three huge baskets late in the second half.

Branden Dawson’s return: You might have missed it on Sunday because of those football games that were on TV, but Dawson had a terrifying moment when he looked to re-injure his surgically repaired left knee. He was going up for a dunk and crumpled in a heap. It looked really, really bad.

But it turned out to be nothing serious, and Dawson had a terrific moment where he came spring out of the locker room to a standing ovation:

“It felt great because Q (team trainer Quinton Sawyer) said, ‘This is what we’ve been waiting for. We’ve been putting in the hard work. Next dead ball, I want you to sprint out,'” Dawson said. “I did that, and the crowd went crazy.”

That’s awesome.

2018 NCAA tournament: No. 11 Loyola moves on to Sweet 16 after beating No. 7 Nevada

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Loyola is in the Elite Eight.

The Ramblers’ dream run through March continued Thursday as they knocked off No. 7 Nevada, 69-68, in South Region semifinal in Atlanta.

Loyola, an 11th seed making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1985, will play the winner of Kansas State and Kentucky on Sunday for a chance to return to the FInal Four for the first time since it won the 1963 national championship.

Marques Townes hit a 3-pointer with under 10 seconds to play to put the Ramblers up four and put the game all but out of reach for Nevada. Townes finished with 18 points while Clayton Custer had 15.  Loyola shot 55.8 percent from the floor for the game.

The Wolf Pack’s Caleb Martin had 21 points while Jordan Caroline had 19. Nevada shot 41.4 percent from the floor.

Nevada looked like it may overwhelm Loyola early as it built a 12-point lead less than seven minutes into the game. The Ramblers, though, struck back by keeping the Wolf Pack off the board for nearly the last 8 minutes of the first half to take a four-point lead into the break.

The strong play considered on the other side of halftime for Loyola, which astonishingly made its first 13 shots of the second half. Still, despite the perfect start, the Ramblers only briefly took a double-digit lead before Nevada sliced it back down below 10.

Loyola’s inability to build a substantial lead came back to bite it as Nevada, the comeback kids of this tournament, mounted its attack on the deficit and had it erased before the under-four timeout, setting up the final frantic minutes of a battle for a spot in the Elite Eight that the Ramblers claimed thanks to Townes’ late triple.


2018 March Madness: Fans in Times Square pick fake teams in Sweet 16 predictions

Leave a comment

NBC Sports went into Times Square this week to ask basketball fans for their Sweet 16 picks.

The only problem?

The teams in the games are not actually playing in the NCAA Tournament.

They aren’t even actually teams.

Hilarity ensued.

Miami’s Bruce Brown declares for draft without an agent

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Bruce Brown wants to hear what the NBA has to say.

The Miami sophomore has declared for the draft but will not hire an agent, the school announced Thursday.

The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 11.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game during his second season with the Hurricanes. He did, though, see his shooting numbers take a tumble compared to his freshman season with his field goal percentage down from 45.9 to 41.5 percent and his 3-point shoot go from 34.7 to 26.7 percent. There’s also the matter of a foot injury that required surgery and kept him off the floor for the ‘Canes’ last 12 games.

By declaring for the draft, Brown can get in front of NBA teams, who will likely take a very close look at his shooting mechanics after that sophomore season downturn. It will also be an opportunity for him to build up his reputation in the professional ranks after spending much of his sophomore season injured.

Big East makes its rules recommendations in wake of FBI probe

Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Big East has ideas.

The conference on Thursday unveiled its recommendations to change college basketball in the wake of the federal investigation of corruption that resulted in 10 initial arrests and general tumult across the sport.

Among the recommendations are allowing players to go pro out of high school but requiring those who go to college to stay there at least two seasons.  They also posit increased regulation of agents, shoe companies and its own members as well as a changed recruiting calendar and more coordination with USA Basketball.

These all seem well-intentioned, but probably not destined for implementation or success.

First off, the age limit that creates one-and-dones is an NBA rule, and no matter what lobbying the NCAA does, they’re not likely to change it on college’s behalf. Any change there will come at the behest of the National Basketball Players Association. The only real leverage the NCAA has on this front would be to declare freshmen ineligible as they once were, but that seems incredibly unlikely. The idea was floated a few years back, but felt entirely like a bluff.

Even if the NCAA somehow mandated players spend at least two seasons on campus, that seems incredibly anti-player. Trae Young probably wouldn’t have left Norman North High School after his senior year, but it would be silly to make him stay another season at Oklahoma if he didn’t want to after the year he just had. Going to college helped Young’s draft stock, but staying there would almost certainly hurt him.

Players that play their way into a multi-million future being made to stick around and play for free for an extra year doesn’t seem to be a viable solution in 2018. Beyond being anti-player on its face, it could fuel even more negative consequences for players who feel they are fringe candidates. Instead of just going to school for a year and proving themselves, some players may just decide they don’t want to risk being there for two years and declare, essentially, a year early.

It also is worth noting that the same document that calls for shoe company influence to be curtailed while also bringing in USA Basketball, which is very intertwined with Nike, is…interesting.

At the end of the day, these recommendations address symptoms – and probably not that well – rather than the root cause, which is amateurism. As long as players, who clearly, literally and inarguably have value beyond their scholarship, are unable to cash in on their skills, there will be people willing to pay them surreptitiously.

It’s hard to “clean up the game” when the “dirty money” isn’t going anywhere.

Purdue’s Isaac Haas unlikely to play on Friday

Elsa/Getty Images
Leave a comment

BOSTON — Isaac Haas has become the biggest story in the East Regional, as he, with the help of a group of mechanical engineering grad students at Purdue, tries to find a way to play through the broken elbow that he suffered in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

And head coach Matt Painter threw a glass of cold water on those dreams on Thursday.

“He didn’t practice the last two days,” Painter said, “and when you don’t practice, you don’t play.”

“I don’t see him playing until he can practice and show me he can shoot a right-handed free throw and get a rebound with two hands,” he added. “I would think he’s done. To me, it’s the eye test. It’s going out and watching him. He can go practice today if he wants, and I can evaluate him. But if he doesn’t practice, nothing changes, right? No matter what I say or you say or he says especially, he fractured his elbow. You know what I mean? So if you fractured your elbow and you can’t shoot a free throw, I don’t know how it changes in two days.”

No. 2-seed Purdue plays No. 3-seed Texas Tech in the East Regional semifinals on Friday night.

That hasn’t stopped Haas from lobbying his head coach to let him on the floor if the officials clear the brace that was rigged for him. The brace was not cleared on Saturday for Purdue’s second round game against Butler.

“I told him multiple times, that hey, even if it’s one minute, it’s worth it to me,” Haas said. “I’ll just keep trying and giving my best effort to be out there. I don’t care if I’m out there or not, you do what you need to do, but if I’m an option, call me up.”

Haas’ ability to shoot isn’t the only concern. If he falls, he could do more damage to injury, requiring more extensive surgery after the season. He said that the injury should keep him out for 2-to-3 months, but those Purdue engineers, they’ve been trying to find a way to get him on the floor.

“My email’s been blowing up with people saying here’s some stuff you can do, here’s some stuff that we have,” Haas said. “It’s funny because they’re all saying this stuff and or trainer and doctors have all that stuff already. I reply, ‘thank you for your consideration. Means a lot, but we have those same machines here.'”